This time of year, many people get nostalgic for a time before social media and pervasive online accessibility, especially as these domains increasingly permeate our daily experiences.
This nostalgia is partly why state park managers work so hard to help visitors enjoy our nation’s natural resources. Park managers fully recognize that visiting parks and exploring nature makes people happy. This motivates their efforts every day.
They realize that for many people, at least some of their most cherished childhood memories likely came from park experiences -- catching that first fish, or being old enough to hike to the top of a mountain, rafting whitewater rapids, or simply stargazing at night.
What most people may not fully grasp is how important those favorite childhood memories are to making life meaningful. According to the website Focus on the Family, making memories “is one way to create a lasting sense of common identity and shared family heritage.”
Other researchers report people who have a store of positive memories from childhood are generally happier and healthier, have better cognitive skills and are more tolerant of others.
It has been well documented that making happy memories is one of many park benefits. Being out in nature reduces stress and increases happiness, according to multiple studies. And the impact is almost instantaneous. A study by Finnish researchers found that just ten minutes in a park or woodland setting tangibly reduced stress. The Finnish study participants felt most restored after time spent in a woodland area.
As my grandfather always said, there are three parts to any trip:
1) The planning and expectation;
2) The actual trip experience; and
3) The reflections or memories that stay with you afterward.
One of my most cherished memories took place at a sea park with my uncle feeding 5,000 fish, which in hindsight wasn’t such a great idea because a rather large shark swam up next to me as I stood waist deep in the ocean.
This scary, yet exciting moment was a pivotal experience for me, sparking my love of nature, and ultimately in parks management as a career. Who knows which of the children who visit our nation’s parks may someday grow up to become environmentalists, marine biologists, or the next state park leaders?
To help your visitors have a positive experience and make memories they will cherish, it’s a good idea for state park managers to take stock of their park services today. Many families will start planning their 2019 summer vacations soon, if they haven’t already. Here’s hoping they will discover your state’s parks and make reservations to visit someday soon.
You can learn more about key trends and services that will help ensure future park visitors bring home happy memories by viewing our Smart Parks video, and reading our white paper, Modernizing Digital Interactions to Transform the Parks Experience.
Happy holidays and best wishes for a happy, memorable New Year!